Weekly Snowfall Update: Big Storms Hold Promise for Extended Spring Skiing in the Western U.S., Europe

Last updated: 1:35 p.m. MST Thursday, April 8, 2010
Originally published: 10:09 a.m. MST Thursday, April 8, 2010

by Patrick Thorne with First Tracks!! Online Media staff reports

Kiltarlity, Scotland, UK – New snow over the Easter holidays has given a great powder base for many of the ski and snowboard resorts still open in the Alps, while across the Atlantic the latest round of huge snowfalls across the western U.S. has left more resorts extending their seasons with waist-deep April powder as many across eastern North America melt out ahead of schedule.n

Western North America

Click image to enlarge

Skier Marc Guido of Salt Lake City, Utah, enjoys 50 inches of new powder from the latest storm at Utah’s Alta Ski Area on Wednesday.
(photo: FTO/Bob Dwore)

Ski resorts in the western U.S., and particularly in California and Utah have seen the biggest snowfalls of the past week. Utah resorts in Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons near Salt Lake City have reported seven-day accumulations close to 100 inches (254cm). Alta has tallied 98 inches (249cm) in a week and 50 inches (127cm) from just the latest storm, pushing the resort’s season-long accumulation to 497 inches (12.62 meters), just about the long-term annual average. Utah’s Brighton Ski Resort reports 90 inches (228cm) in seven days, and Snowbird and Solitude have also reported more than two meters (6.7 feet) over the week. On the Wasatch Back, Park City Mountain Resort has reported week-long totals of 81 inches (206cm).

Although a few Utah resorts plan to close this weekend, Park City Mountain Resort and Brian Head have each extended their seasons by another week to April 18. Alta, originally scheduled to close April 18, will reopen for a bonus weekend April 23-25. Snowbird plans to remain open through Memorial Day.

It’s almost as good in California, where nearly all resorts in the northern half of the state have reported between 3.3 and five feet (a meter to a meter and a half) of new snow over the Easter weekend. The majority of ski areas in the region have closed already or close in the next seven days, although some like Squaw Valley will remain open. Thanks in part to seven feet (213cm) of new snow in the past seven days, Squaw is scheduled to continue skiing and snowboarding through May 9th. Base depths at Squaw currently measure 170-180 inches (432-457cm) on the upper elevations.

There’s been new snow elsewhere in Western North America too, with Colorado resorts benefiting and Grand Targhee in Wyoming the latest to announce an extended season. Sixty-three inches (1.6m) of new snow has fallen there this past week, with 14 inches (35cm) from the latest storm.

“We typically receive great snow in March and April, and many of our guests ask us to consider postponing our closing day every year,” said F. Scott Pierpont, General Manager at Grand Targhee Resort. “This decision is based on those requests, our excellent conditions and the potential for additional business.”

Targhee will run Dreamcatcher chairlift for an extra week, through to Sunday April 18. The chair will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and offer limited facilities. It’s likely that Targhee will see an influx of season passholders from nearby Jackson, where Jackson Hole Mountain Resort closed for the season this past Sunday with the fourth highest visitation level in its 45-year history. Over 413,684 skiers graced the slopes of Jackson Hole this winter.

In Colorado, 19 inches (48cm) of snowfall reported at mid-mountain Wednesday morning, in addition to 13 inches (33 cm) reported Tuesday, has prompted officials at Vail Mountain to expand the resort’s closing week operating plan from what was announced last month.

“Our pass holders have been waiting all season for the kind of conditions we’ve had in the last few days and will continue to have through next week,” said Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain. “Vail’s snowfall is already above the nine-year average for April and with four feet of fresh snow in the last week alone, we’re thrilled to be able to change our plans and end the season with a bang.”

In addition to the lifts already scheduled for spin for Vail’s final week, the Sun Up Lift (#17), Tea Cup Express Lift (#36) and Skyline Express Lift (#37) will now remain open through April 18.

Elsewhere in Colorado, even though Wolf Creek’s season is “officially” over, the ski area will reopen “unofficially” for two more weekends, April 10-11 and April 17-18 when six lifts will be operating from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day. These last two weekends are Local Appreciation weekends as well as Family Days at Wolf Creek. Local appreciation rates are $31 for adults and $18 for seniors and children. Children who participated in the Wolf Creek local school program are invited to bring their immediate families for $12 per family member, including a two-hour lesson plus rentals.

In Oregon, Mount Hood Meadows has received 42 inches (107cm) of new snow in the past week with another foot to 18 inches forecast today through Friday. Base depths at Meadows now reach 141 inches (3.6m), and the resort will continue its ski and snowboard season on weekends through May 16, with daily operations scheduled through April 25. Hood River Meadows is now scheduled to operate daily through April 18.

To the north, Canada’s Whistler Blackcomb has announced the decision to extend skiing and riding on Whistler Mountain by one week. Whistler Mountain’s last day of operations will now be Sunday, April 25, while Blackcomb Mountain’s last day of operations will be Monday, May 24.

“With over 1,353 centimeters (533 inches) of snow so far this season and a current snow base of 363 centimeters (143 inches), this incredible season is far from over,” says Dave Brownlie, president and chief operating officer at Whistler Blackcomb. “The great snow was a key factor in deciding to keep Whistler Mountain open an additional week, but guest feedback about Whistler Mountain closing during the second week of the TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival played a big role in the decision as well. We listened to the feedback, then reviewed and revised the required lift maintenance schedule, allowing us to extend Whistler Mountain’s winter operations by one week.”

Since we spoke with Brownlie, Whistler has reached 1432cm, or 47 feet of snow this season, its second snowiest on record.

Eastern North America

It’s a different story on the East Coast where extremely warm weather has caused a rapid thaw at most areas. Vermont’s Okemo Mountain Resort today scaled back its closing day for a second time, announcing that their ski and snowboard season will now end tomorrow.

Nearby Stratton Mountain Resort will close out its winter season this weekend with the Burgers and Bonks parks event on Tyrolienne on Saturday. Sunday’s scheduled pond skimming contest at Stratton has been canceled to allow the resort’s groomers to farm all available remaining snow onto the trails.

In northern Vermont, Stowe plans to continue operations through this Sunday, with $39 lift tickets each day this weekend. Immediate family members of deployed Vermont National Guard soldiers are invited to enjoy a day of free skiing and riding at Stowe Mountain Resort on Sunday.

In New Hampshire, three ski resorts today announced closings earlier than originally scheduled. Bretton Woods planned to offer skiing and riding through Sunday, but warm weather has forced the mountain to abandon plans for this weekend and close for the season at the end of the day today. Waterville Valley won’t make it to Sunday’s scheduled last day, either, and will wrap things up tomorrow. Loon Mountain, meanwhile, had originally hoped to keep sliding through Monday, but will now close the season out on Saturday in day-glo with an 80s Day celebration.

New York’s Hunter Mountain, and Le Massif de Charlevoix in Quebec will also wrap up the 2009-10 season this weekend.

Western Europe

There were heavy snowfalls in the German-speaking areas of the Alps over Easter with Andermatt seeing over a foot (35cm) of new snow. This was part of a total one-meter (40-inch) total in the past seven days, the largest in Switzerland. The Andermatt-Gotthard region also reports the biggest snow depth in Switzerland at present with 3.5m (nearly 12 feet) on upper slopes.

St. Moritz also reported 15cm (six inches) of fresh snow on Sunday. Martin Berthod, the resort’s sports and events manager, said, “The snow conditions are still excellent all over the Engadin.”

The 4 Valleys has also reported good snowfall in the past week, with 75cm (2.5 feet) of new snow and Laax has had yet another 60cm (two feet) taking its snow depth to 220cm (7.3 feet).

Glacier ski areas currently have some of Switerland’s deepest snow with Engelberg reporting three meters (ten feet) and Saas Fee a few centimetres/inches less with 289cm.

The snow depth in the French Alps is very good for the end of season with 183.6cm (6.2 feet) average on the top of the slopes in the Northern Alps and 229.6cm (7.6 feet) average for the Southern Alps. Chamonix currently has the top snow depth with 405cm (13.5 feet), La Clusaz has 310cm (10.3 feet) and Alpe d’Huez and La Grave 300cm (10 feet). Serre Chevalier is just behind on 290cm (9.6 feet).

It has snowed a lot the last week in the French Alps with 24 resorts reporting snowfalls in excess of 20cm (eight inches) in 24 hours in Sunday. Serre Chevalier reported 65cm (2.2 feet) of fresh snow and Puy St. Vincent 40cm (16 inches) in just one day. Over the past week Pelvoux-Vallouise and Puy St. Vincent have both reported a meter (3.3 feet) of new snow, Le Grand Bornand 82cm (2.6 feet) and Serre Chevalier 80cm (2.6 feet).

Many French ski resorts are still open during April and six will remain open into May. Bonneval sur Arc will close on the 1st of May, Val d’Isère on the 2nd and Chamonix Mont-Blanc, where the upper slope snow depth went back above four metres (13.3 feet) this week, as well as Tignes, Val Thorens and La Grave la Meije are open another week to May 9th.

Sunny weather is forecast in Austria for the next few days and on many Austrian slopes there is still lots of snow – so conditions for spring skiing are fine. Sölden, for example, got fresh snow again and received more than 20cm (eight inches) of new snow on Monday. Thirty-one of the ski resort’s lifts are still running and the sky there is cloudless. It received 40cm (16 inches) in total through the last week and currently has a snow depth of 251cm (8.3 feet). Lech Zürs am Arlberg has had 35cm (14 inches) of new snow in the past week.

There are a dozen Austrian resorts with two meters or more of snow on their slopes. The Mölltal glacier has the biggest snow depth of 390cm (13 feet), Hintertux has more than three meters (10 feet), too.

To the north in Germany, the Zugspitze again tallied lots of fresh snow with 20cm (eight inches) more on Monday and 35cm (14 inches) on Good Friday. Feldberg in the Black Forest also received another 20cm (eight-inch) snowfall in the past week.

Italy has topped the table in Europe for the most snow in the past seven days with Madesimo reporting 1.2m (four feet) of new Spring powder. Arabba and the Marmolada Glacier was second on the continent withy another meter (3.3 feet) and there was about 60cm (two feet) more in Val Gardena in the Dolomites and Monterosa in the Alps.

Marmolada currently has the deepest snow in Europe, too, with 5.2m (17.3 feet). Passo Tanale’s Presena Glacier is second with 4.2m (14 feet).

The ski season is winding down in the Pyrenees with warmer temperatures, bringing classic spring freeze/thaw conditions and a relaxed vibe on the slopes. One of the region’s largest resorts, Baqueira Beret in Spain, has already closed, but Formigal, the largest in the area still has 1221km (76 miles) to enjoy and snow depths of 220cm (7.3 feet). Andorra’s ski areas are also still open.

Europe’s most southerly major ski area, Sierra Nevada in Spain, still has five meters of snow on upper slopes and plans to stay open in to May.

Northern Europe

In Northern Europe, despite warmer weather during the Easter holidays, skiing conditions remain good at most open resorts in Scandinavia. Sweden’s Tandådalen has reported modest new snowfall, 8cm (three inches) in the last seven days.

This week and next there’s a lot of attention at Åre since Jon Olsson Super Sessions started on Monday and will continue until the 17th of April. One of the highlights during the week will be the Big Air competition, as well as the Jon Olsson Invitational on the 15th with some of the world’s best jibbers in resort. The ten days are full of activities including parties, various competitions, a rail park in Åre town square and of course apres-ski.

In Scotland, CairnGorm’s best ski season in decades continues with 40cm of fresh snow in the past week. The Scottish ski area saw over 2,000 skiers take to the slopes on Good Friday to check out the recent fall of snow, which was perfectly timed to provide excellent snow cover across the mountain for Easter skiing and boarding. It is expected that skiing will continue to be available at CairnGorm throughout not only April but into May as well. The resort will be open daily for snowsports until May 3rd, the U.K.’s bank holiday weekend, and thereafter every weekend in May, conditions permitting.

“Coming on top of the 117,000 skiers we have already had this season, Friday’s figures set us on course for a grand finale to double last year’s total of 65,000 skiers for the season by the end of April,” said CairnGorm Mountain spokesman Colin Kirkwood.

The resort has arranged to open for evening skiing tonight when a number of lifts will remain open from 4 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Rides on the resort’s groomers and snowmobiles will be available for non-skiers.

Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe is generally in meltdown with the snow gone, or mostly gone, from lower areas. But on the other hand, Poland’s leading ski resort of Zakopane reported 40cm (16 inches) of new snow on Tuesday.

Author Patrick Thorne is the Content Editor for Skiinfo UK, located online at www.skiinfo.co.uk

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